Upstairs. Having collected sufficient hardware across a lengthy reviewing career, I can usually regain or at least approach 'my' sound by compensating a newcomer with ancillary alternates. This also enables quick triangulations. Here the Crayon usually mates to Vinnie Rossi's L2 Signature DHT preamp. Its grounded-grid circuit shuns coupling caps and output transformers for 700kHz bandwidth. Fitted with Elrog ER50, it injects very mild textural enhancements. Those tame subtle presence-region forwardness of 4-inch Alpair widebanders in my micro aluminator standmounts from Korea. Emei didn't need the same valvular ministrations. Instead I could run an icOn 4Pro passive/magnetic autoformer volume control. That or a preamp is needed ahead of an 80Hz/4th-order active analog filter. It inserts a speaker high pass and subwoofer low pass for perfect 2.1 integration when with insufficient boundary gain, these monitors only hit ~70Hz. Emei's own volume sat at max. Depending on median recorded level, the AVC worked between its usual 25-40dB attenuation. Not only did I have zero noise, bypassing Emei's attenuator created her best S/NR¹. I know exactly how the Crayon/Mon combo responds to this AVC. Hearing the Emei/Mon combo with it showed instantly how Emei was more relaxed and slightly warmer than the CFA-1.2 so possibly tuned for very fine 2nd-harmonic THD. Having compared the Crayon to Kinki's original EX-M1 integrated, I know the latter to be fresher and energetically more adolescent. Now basic triangulations could easily extrapolate that compared to her bigger Kinki brother, Emei is tonally more mature and like her name, more feminine and refined. Without stepping outside family DNA, Emei felt more sophisticated or balanced than the first run of more masculine slightly macho speed-is-the-deed EX-M1. I can't know whether this reflects the designer's own aural evolution; or is a strategic course correction which anticipates price-commensurate systems to err more on the side of forwardness and leanness than fat sonority. To my ears, Emei wore less racetrack stickers on her sleeve but gave up no transparency in trade. That slipped her right into the ascending Goldmund/Job 225 ⇒ Kinki EX-M1 ⇒ Crayon CFA-1.2 ⇒ Enleum AMP-23R hierarchy to set up shop between the latter two.
¹ This could sound counter-intuitive to warrant explanation. Circuits without true variable gain generate fixed gain which we trim resistively. We reduce outgoing signal voltage against a fixed noise floor. The more signal we cut, the less signal-to-noise ratio we end up with because the noise floor doesn't vary. It embeds in fixed amplification factor. It's why brands like Ayre, Enleum and Sonnet exploit true variable gain circuits. Regardless of output voltage, their S/NR doesn't change so low SPL don't suffer resolution decimation from increased self noise.
Given the display's available height, am I alone thinking that the letters and numbers could easily be twice if not thrice as large?
To show a best-case display scenario, this photo combined night-time lighting, ceiling flash, macro lens, focus stacking and level, saturation and contrast enhancements. Yet in the seat my eyes couldn't make out a thing. Not that fixed mode cared so I blacked things out as befit my pure amp usage. I simply think illegible displays daft so asked CHoco Sound whether max display brightness can be upped by trim pot or resistor change; and if the former, could I do it myself? Before you think that I'm giving Emei a hard time, Enleum's 'display' is worse. Their wandering volume dot is neither backlit nor big enough to matter. Soo-In Chae took the idea from a Swiss watch. Holding a watch up to your face if necessary is no issue. In a rack at 3 meters away meanwhile it becomes utterly useless on a hifi component so far too smart for its own good. I suspect that the choice of small alphanumerics for Emei was likewise to look smart; which it absolutely does. Combined with low contrast, it simply doesn't cover enough distance. If bigger numbers look odd like those cellphones for the elderly, why not enlarge them just temporarily whenever we trim volume? Ferrum do it with Wandla and either Luxman or Accuphase exploit an equivalent display zoom. With that wrapped and reiterated in the next two photos which show Emei's display at full brightness during the day, no more complaints, hurray. And, "we'll revisit the display's brightness to make it better."
My notion on high resolution is utterly basic. Check how far down you can turn SPL before your ear/brain cries uncle because all interest to listen is gone. That type of res is really useful since it maintains engagement factor at times where higher SPL would upset co-dwellers or neighbors. We also won't wear out our attentive nervous-system energies so our sessions last longer. It's precisely why this night-time system features these isobaric speakers and electronics which promote the same low-SPL lucid mode. Without missing a step, Emei slotted right in. I could eviscerate playback levels -45dB below DAC output voltage and still smile. This type resolution isn't primarily about so-called micro detail. It's far more about sufficient microdynamic gradients and tone-color fill so music won't bleach and flatten out. Emei aced those tasks to quickly endear herself.
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Another key aspect of whisper chops is lack of focus confusion. Such confusion often follows congealing. It's when undue softening and weak separation tangle up images and layers into a mass like matted seaweed on a beach. Using more loudness to declump can work but is a giveaway problem tell. It shouldn't be necessary. Emei also aced those aspects. In combination it meant a lovely balance between low-level visibility for the mind's eye as the imaging qualities of 3D mapping, spatial spread and individuation; and feeling satisfaction from not washing out into paleness and flat-lined dynamic range.
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